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Spinach Tart with Eggplant, Roasted Tomatoes and Olive Cream

 Spinach Tart with Eggplant, Roasted Tomatoes and Olive Cream

 

This was my first try at the Paper Chef competition, a fun web event modeled on the Iron Chef competitions on the Food Network: a group of "secret ingredients" are announced on the first Friday of each month and participants must submit a recipe using those ingredients within 72 hours. This challenge is in its eighth incarnation and was invented by Owen of Tomatilla! Unlike most other web food events, it's an actual competition, with a winner and losers: usually the winner of the previous month's Paper Chef picks the next one to display the coveted "Paper Chef Winner" badge.

This month's judge is Sarah of Delicious Life, who won the job for her Paper Chef #7 triumph with the spectacular Feta Cheese Souffles with Walnuts, Dates and Feisty Greens in a Honey Lemon Vinaigrette. As you can see if you followed that last link, Sarah's a gifted and humorous writer, too, so a visit to her site is always a pleasure, for the wit as well as for the food and the general LA lifestyle she's got going on there.

This month's secret ingredients were announced on Friday, July 1: spinach, olives, cheddar cheese and a choice of either potatoes or cream.

Spinachtart1_2Spinach, olives and cheese immediately suggested something Mediterranean, possibly Greek-influenced. The question was how to incorporate cream or potatoes.

A spinach-cheese quiche studded with olives seemed a little too obvious, even though it fit into my initial conceptual framework, so I worked out a way to stay close to that idea, with an interesting twist. Taking the cream out of the quiche, I thought of a cheesy little spanikopita, laced with olives and that sounded like a possibility. But what to do with that cream (or those potatoes)?  After a little brainstorming and fooling around in the kitchen it came to me: eggplant and tomatoes -- traditional Mediterranean vegetables -- roasted with rosemary and mounded on top of a cheese/spinach tart, topped off with a delicious spoonful of whipped cream laced with tiny bits of Greek olives.

It took a little doing to figure out how to uniformly incorporate the olives into the cream, but after a couple of false starts I found the key: freezing the olives so they can be pulverized like nuts. (Because of the salt content they don't freeze really hard but they do get stiff enough to resist the blade, which is all you need to make particles instead of paste.) It turned out to be well worth the effort, as the salty flavor of the olives blends magically with the cream and complements the spinach, eggplant, tomatoes and cheese perfectly...at least according to me! (Think olive cream cheese, only lighter, much lighter, and creamier.) Anyway, I had a great time with my first Paper Chef entry and I can't wait to do another one next month.

Spinach Tart with Eggplant, Roasted Tomatoes and Olive Cream

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • 1 package frozen creamed spinach, thawed
  • 3/4 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 16 Greek olives, pitted and chopped
  • 2 Japanese eggplants
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced
  • 20 grape tomatoes
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • Salt and hot sauce, to taste

Method

Set oven to 400º.

1. Place the olives in a plastic container in the freezer for at least 1 hour.

2. Slice the eggplants into 1/4" disks. Toss them in olive oil and half the garlic and season to taste. Spread on a baking sheet, with none of the disks touching any of the others.

3. Slice the tomatoes in half, toss in olive oil, the rosemary, and the rest of the garlic. Season to taste and spread on a baking sheet, cut sides up.

4. Roast eggplant and tomatoes for about 1/2 hour, turning the eggplant after 15 minutes. When done the eggplant should be just tender and the tomatoes will be starting to shrivel but not yet dry. Turn the eggplant and tomatoes into separate bowls with the oils, juices and flavorings from the baking sheets, give them each a toss and correct seasoning. Set aside.

Tartcrustdiagcol5. Cut each square pastry sheet into three triangles, as shown at the top of the diagram. With fingers moistened with water, reassemble the two smaller triangles from each sheet into one large one, resulting in four equal-sized triangles. Cut the points off the triangles and roll the truncated points towards the center, using a little water to "glue" the rolls in place.

4. Mix the spinach, cheese and egg yolks and season to taste. Beat the egg whites until just stiff and fold into the spinach mixture. Arrange the tart crusts on an ungreased baking sheet and spoon in about a half-inch layer of the spinach mixture. Bake about 20 minutes until the spinach is puffed and both the spinach and the crust are starting to brown.

5. Whip the cream until very stiff. In a small food processor or spice grinder, quickly pulverize the frozen olive bits. Don't overprocess: the goal is individual grains of olive, not olive paste. Pick out the few large bits that refuse to break down rather than continuing with the blade. Fold the olives grains into the cream and mix gently.

To serve, give the vegetables a quick toss and place a few eggplant slices and tomato halves on the spinach tart. Top it off with a dollop of the olive cream.

Spinachtar2_3

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Comments

Hi Stephen,
looks like a wonderful creation! Love the way you prepared the puff pastry, especially your drawn "How-to"... ;)

Hey Nicky...thanks for stopping in...and saying such nice things. About the drawings: just remember that I was a professional architect in a past life, which means I spent many pre-computer years and an obscene amount of $$ learning to draw...so while these complicated technical drawings may look difficult to the untrained eye, to me they're really easy!

Thanks again for looking in, and thanks for the basil-lime sorbet which I just printed off your site...I may make it tonight!

well this doesn't seem to be the work of a newbie:D -- and what a clever way of incorporating the olives! love the pastry drawing too, very helpful.

I really like the way you formatted the pastry. That just gave me some ideas what to do with the Paper Chef leftovers or worst still the stuff no one wants to eat.
Keeping the cream separate until serving is great for the diet conscience, I wish I have thought about that!

Hi, wonderful and hunger-inducing post. Lovely pictures.

Hey Chubby Hubby...I just posted a comment on you IMBB Eggs entry for mentaiko pasta...an intriguing dish on a beautiful site. Thanks for stopping by.

That looks incredible! You'd get my vote for Paper Chef.

hello stephen and welcome to the paper chef (though i still consider myself a newbie, as well).

you and i had the exact same train of thought, but backwards! lol! i thought of a similar tart because i had just received a cookbook dedicated to tarts, but i am NO good with yeast doughs...then spanakopita, but didn't how to do it with CHEDDAR, and finally ended with quiche, which is also a tart, too, right?

the photos are beautiful and your blog is lovely!

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